Mention the American antelope and most people think of the plains of Wyoming, which has more of the fleet-footed pronghorns than people, roughly half a million. But the antelope ( antilocapra americana ) is native to California, too, and has been making a remarkable comeback since the 1930s when there may have been fewer than 1,000 of the animals left, primarily in the far northeastern corner of the state.
Today, according to an article in the current issue of Outdoor California, the magazine of the state Fish and Game Department, there are an estimated 8,000 antelope in widely scattered habitats, including the Antelope Valley of Los Angeles and Kern counties, the Carrizo Plain in the San Joaquin Valley, Mono County, the central coast range and Lassen and Modoc counties.
The Fish and Game Department is planning more relocations as the major herds in Modoc County reach the carrying capacity of those ranges. Areas under consideration include the west side of the Sacramento Valley, the Carrizo Plain, the Antelope Valley and San Benito County.
The antelope is a unique species native to the Americans plains and deserts. It is not related to the African antelope, according to Outdoor California, and is not a member of the goat family as many believe. The antelope is characterized by its two pronged horns, black blazes on its nose and around the eyes, white markings on the neck and shoulders and its prominent white rump. The pronghorn has excellent senses of sight, smell and hearing to protect it against predators, and is the fastest land animal in North America.
Antelope break up into small groups during the summer and are difficult to spot. But they mingle in larger herds in the winter and often are visible along U.S. 395 and State Route 299 in Lassen and Modoc counties--another sign of the amazing natural diversity of the state of California.